In wine, there is truth: despite enjoying a diet that is heavily based on white flour (baguette, croissants, etc.), saturated fats (cheese) and high alcohol and tobacco consumption, the French tend to live about two years longer compared to the rest of Europeans. Find out in our latest blog post what is behind this contradiction also referred to as the “French paradox”, and what expert translators can bring to the table.


In France, life expectancy at birth has reached 82.9 years, compared to 79.0 years in the UK. In 2020, however, it temporarily decreased by eight months due to the Covid-related excess mortality, marking the largest decline in life expectancy since 1945. But even before the pandemic, the rise in life expectancy in France had already slowed down significantly between 2010 and 2019 – a trend that was also observed in many other countries of Western Europe.

In 2019, leading causes of death included cancer (30%) and cardiovascular disease (24%), followed by ischemic heart disease (5.6%) and stroke (5.4%). In comparison, people in the UK are more likely to die of ischemic heart disease or dementia and Alzheimer disease. About 33% of all deaths recorded in France in 2019 could be attributed to lifestyle-related risk factors (lower than the EU average of 39%). Examples of these risk factors are smoking, poor dietary habits, alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle.

When asked about their general state of health, two out of five adults (38%) report having at least one chronic condition. This rate is slightly higher compared to the EU average, but lower than in the UK, where almost half of the population (45.7% of men and 50.1% of women) report having a long-standing health problem.

Health market

France has a comprehensive public healthcare system that is managed by the French Health Insurance (assurance maladie). All citizens are entitled to basic healthcare, which is covered by this insurance. Funding is based on contributions from both employers and employees. The general health insurance fund (régime général) reimburses between 60% and 70% of the costs for medical products and services, and 80% for hospitalized treatment.

Products and services that exceed basic care, however, must be paid for by the patients themselves. For this reason, nearly 95% of the French population take out private supplementary insurance, which is called mutuelle. The most common self-pay products include glasses and contact lenses, hearing aids and dentures.

France is sometimes considered a difficult market among pharmaceutical manufacturers, due to the general reimbursement conditions governing drug products. That is why in July 2021, the French government launched a dedicated research funding program. The plan innovation santé 2030 aims to make France a more attractive location for research projects and investments in the pharmaceutical or medical technology sector. A fast-track procedure is also in place to facilitate the pricing and reimbursement of innovative pharmaceuticals.

Since early 2022, hospitals and clinics also have been able to use novel, yet sometimes expensive products more easily if they offer a strong therapeutic benefit. All these incentives have significantly increased the opportunities for market access of new products in France.


Important trends in the French healthcare market include personalized medicine and digitalization, with the use of mobile devices and digital technologies gaining in popularity. Many health apps and mobile applications allow patients to monitor their own health status, track their symptoms and share this information with their healthcare provider, for example.

These practical tools play a critical role in the megatrend of preventive health and health promotion: pedometers, exercise apps and fitness trackers are being used in more and more households, and they are also welcomed by clinicians. The data can be analyzed to inform lifestyle recommendations supported by AI, for example by digital sleep coaches. Companies in France are also investing in employee programs to improve nutrition, physical activity and mental health.

The recent developments resonate well with French consumers, who are known for their high health awareness. In 2012, they even introduced a sugar tax, which is imposed on all non-alcoholic beverages that contain added sugars or sweeteners. Another prime example is the popular Parisian bike-sharing system Vélib’, which was readily adopted by the city’s residents. It was launched to promote health and prevention and to reduce traffic and the environmental impact of car journeys.

Here, companies can offer a competitive edge by supporting environmental protection and sustainability. French consumers appreciate eco-friendly manufacturing and waste reduction policies. These aspects may be critical to influence purchase decisions in the country’s highly competitive self-pay and lifestyle market.

Legal and regulatory conditions

Within the European Union (EU), the marketing authorization process is harmonized. Under this marketing pathway, the applicant submits a dossier with extensive data on the quality, efficacy and safety of a medicinal product to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which then evaluates the data and issues a recommendation for the authorization or rejection of the medicinal product.

Following this procedure, the drug product can be authorized at country level. The French local authority responsible for evaluating the application for national authorization is the agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM), based in Saint-Denis. If the ANSM agrees, the drug product will be authorized in France and included in the list of reimbursable medicines. Once marketing approval has been obtained, the ANSM and other health authorities will continue to monitor the drug product regarding its safety and effectiveness.

Medical devices, on the other hand, such as contact lenses, insulin pumps or walkers, require a CE marking in order to be marketed in France. Following CE marking, the product must be “registered” with the ANSM.

EU-wide and international health market

Within the EU, it is the responsibility of the individual member states to devise and implement their own national healthcare policies. For this, the EU provides a higher-level framework consisting of directives and regulations to be incorporated into national legislation. A prominent example is the Medical Devices Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2017/745), also referred to as the MDR. It sets out the requirements to be met by medical devices that are distributed in the European single market.

Medicines can also be authorized at individual member state level only, according to national regulations (in France, by the ANSM). Alternatively, pharmaceutical companies also have the option of using EMA’s “centralized authorization procedure”. This route allows marketers to obtain authorization in all member states of the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland and Norway) based on a single application.


Internationalization enables French hospitals and medical practices to position themselves as attractive service providers for patients abroad and offer a unique selling point. Exchanging information with other countries, for example by translating scientific publications and training materials, also allows French healthcare providers to benefit from best practices implemented in other regions of the world, which contributes to higher quality of care.

Whether it is a medical device, a drug product, a dietary supplement or a fitness and lifestyle item: translations form an integral part of all phases of the product’s lifecycle. Professional translators need years of experience, extensive specialist knowledge and proficiency in their language to adapt the content and intended meaning to the respective target audience (experts, laypersons, authorities, etc.), while also ensuring that the specific requirements of the text type and communication channel are met.

Specialized translators make sure that regulatory documents for authorities are translated correctly and comply with the conventions for these types of texts. Given the time and money already invested into the product, time-to-market delays would be particularly costly. With the right language experts at your side, you can avoid these stumbling blocks on your way to successful market launch.

When addressing consumers and patients directly, translations must avoid unnecessary jargon and present complex scientific issues in a way that is easy to understand. This approach applies to patient portals, educational websites and information flyers, for example. Here, content is often intended to inform and convince potential buyers but should not feel overly promotional. In this case, it may make sense to turn to specialist translators with a marketing background to create a freer translation that meets the requirements of the target market based on a detailed briefing: a service called “transcreation.”

Apart from French, which is the country’s official language, one of the most important languages for the French healthcare market is German, which is spoken by many citizens, especially in the border regions of Alsace and Lorraine. The world’s lingua franca – English – accounts for 39%. Arabic, which is represented by around four million speakers, and the Amazigh languages spoken in North Africa also play a major role because of immigration from the former colonial territories of France. Other languages include those from neighboring countries, such as Italian, Spanish or Flemish. Depending on the target group, other languages may also be important (e.g. EU languages or regional dialects such as Breton, Alsatian or Provençal).


Does the French paradox really exist? Unfortunately, neither grape seed extract nor the French savoir vivre offer compelling evidence. According to the WHO, simple under-reporting of heart disease on death certificates might be responsible for the lower numbers. Indeed, a corresponding correction provides a similar picture for France as for all other industrialized nations: an increased consumption of saturated fats and high levels cholesterol lead to an increase in cardiovascular conditions.

The health system in France ranks among the best in the world. But there is also criticism about incomplete coverage provided by the French health insurance, forcing patients to take out additional private insurance. In particular, the reimbursement of telehealth options is still lacking. Relevant adjustments in French legislation are planned to be implemented in 2023.

Overall, the French healthcare market offers many opportunities: together with Germany, it accounts for more than 50% of the EU’s medtech market. In the sensitive healthcare sector, it is particularly important to gain and maintain the trust of customers and consumers in the quality of the brand. Translations created by highly qualified, professional translators are indispensable to achieve this goal. They not only ensure that the safety of patients and users is not jeopardized by translation errors and prevent liability risks. They also offer high-quality, error-free and, most importantly, effective communication that is tailored to the needs and expectations of the target group.



autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

We explain how internationalization works, provide tips for your translation projects and outline some of the technology and processes used. We also report on current e-commerce developments and cover a range of language-related topics.